ND opens season against elite competition
Josh Dulany | Thursday, November 13, 2014
Notre Dame gets its team season underway this weekend against two Midwest rivals. On Friday night, the Irish host a home exhibition against Northwestern, before heading to Ohio State for Sunday’s Ohio State Elite Cup.
Along with the Irish and Buckeyes, the field in Columbus, Ohio, will feature Princeton, Pennsylvania, Penn State and North Carolina. As Notre Dame prepares for its opening events of the season, associate head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said the team has several early goals for the season.
“The two objectives we need to accomplish here are first to find out where we are as team, focus on the team chemistry and unify the kids as one unit because some are freshman, some are upperclassmen and we just have to insert the mentality we want as a team going into the season,” Kvaratskhelia said. “The second goal is to determine the adjustments we have to make. In terms of physical conditioning, technical preparation or the tactical outlook.”
Kvaratskhelia said that as the team gets competition underway, the Irish will look to the veterans to set an example for the freshmen. Two team members who will especially lead, Kvaratskhelia said, are former national champions senior foil Ariel DeSmet and junior foil Lee Keifer.
“We have a couple key leaders,” Kvaratskhelia said. “Ariel DeSmet was a national champion as a freshman, and now, as a fifth year senior, it has been a long journey for him to get back where he belongs. We think he should be one of the favorites this year to win a national championship. Then, of course, Lee Keifer is a two-time defending national champion, and so with their leadership and what we have gained with a freshman class coming in, we have a pretty dynamic team.”
The squad will face its first test in a tough environment at Ohio State. Kvaratskhelia said each of the teams at the Ohio State Elite Cup could win a national championship. As an added incentive, Kvaratskhelia said the Irish are looking forward to Columbus and facing the Buckeyes, their former rivals from the Midwest Fencing Conference.
“We don’t need any motivation to get ready for Ohio State,” Kvaratskhelia said. “But we look at every team as a potential showdown down the road for national championships. Yes, we have a rivalry [with Ohio State] and sometimes we dislike each other on the strip, but no matter what we keep the same aggressive mentality.”
Beyond the tough competition on the strip, the Irish also have a daunting weekend of travel ahead of them. After facing Northwestern on Friday at Notre Dame, the Irish will spend Saturday traveling to Ohio State for Sunday’s competition. However, Kvaratskhelia said he believes that the travel will actually benefit the Irish.
“Our kids are accustomed to flying overseas and waking up and fencing,” Kvaratskhelia said. “That’s when we get the best out of them. So, the dynamic schedule will be a key to success here. We cannot wait to get on that bus and show everyone what our team is made of.”
Notre Dame square off with Northwestern Friday at 7:30 p.m., in the Castellan Family Fencing Center, followed by competition in the Ohio State Elite Cup beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday.